Know Yourself
Joseph of Arimathea
31 July 2017
God fitted man for fellowship with Him, a fellowship the man enjoyed in the garden until his fall into sin and unbelief. His fall was a prideful attempt to be an autonomous, self sufficient being, aspiring to be his own god. God permitted his pitiful attempt at self-sufficiency. Now he was on his own, free to be his own god. In his coveted freedom, He was alienated from his heavenly Father. The rebel took his patrimony into his own hands and fled from the Father's love. He shattered the community created for his blessedness by the holy Trinity in the garden. His alienation left him with a pitiful god: himself (Gn 3:5).
 
Only in the true God do we truly know ourselves. In our wickedness, we are tempted to seek ourselves only in ourselves. Our hearts are set upon the unholy trinity of me, myself, and I. Many a modern has gone off to "find myself" through self-absorption, only to find nothing at the end of his search. There is no self where there is no other. Experts in child development tell us that infants and young children only develop a coherent image of themselves as they experience others, by bumping up against mommy, daddy, and sister. Discovery of the other tells us who we are. Unfortunately, that is an experience we shall have until we draw our dying breath; to be learned ever and again. It is unfortunate because the fall necessitated the continual realization that we are not alone and that there are others out there from whom we have been alienated through the perverse delusion of our self-sufficiency. At best, on our own, we are capable of relationships of power, not true fellowship. Our view of our own divinity demands the obedience of the other, either God or other persons. True kindred feeling for the other and self-offering to the other cannot exist while we remain alienated from God. We will use the alienated and alienating power that we presume we have over other persons. That's the best we can do without God.
 
Our heavenly Father still wanders through the world now in tatters seeking His children, "Where are you?" He condescends to call the other. As He wanders in our wilderness, He is completely directed to the need of the fallen and sinful. He holds His power to serve at the sacrificial need of the other. Our own tone deafness to the inviting Word of God, has kept us in the solipsistic cage of our own alienation. The Lord has left us to our own devices. You are your own god. How did that work out for you then?
 
How depraved we are that when we inspect our own hearts we do not see our own self-alienation. We are not our proper selves any longer because of our alienation from the other, especially the God who created us. God has abandoned us to ourselves and we can't see it. All we know is that things are not right. Our self-love ends in destroying relations with others. How often we have betrayed the other for the sake of ourselves. When we have freed ourselves of the other, all that is left is a puny and dissatisfied self. Only the incarnation of Christ, who took our nature on Himself, is able to fill to fullness the true promise of that human nature with which He has endowed us. Only in His perfect life of fellowship with His Father (Jn 10:30) has our solipsistic cage been shattered. Only when we know God in the incarnate Christ will we truly know ourselves. 

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Augustine of Hippo

"God created man, made him in His own image, set him above the other animals, placed him in Paradise, enriched him with abundance of every kind and of safety. This God laid upon man neither many, nor great, nor difficult commandments, but, in order to make a wholesome obedience easy to him, gave him a single very brief and very light precept by which He reminded that creature whose service was to be free that He was Lord. Therefore, because the sin [of the fall] was a despising of the authority of God it was just that condemnation followed, and condemnation such that man, who by keeping the commandments should have been spiritual even in his flesh, became fleshly even in his spirit. Since in his pride he had sought to be his own satisfaction, God in His justice abandoned him to himself, not to live in the absolute independence he affected, but instead of the liberty he desired, to live dissatisfied with himself in a hard and miserable bondage to him to whom he had yielded himself by sinning. He was doomed in spite of himself to die in body as he had willingly become dead in spirit, condemned even to eternal death (had not the grace of God delivered him) because he had forsaken eternal life.
 
"Whoever thinks such punishment either excessive or unjust shows his inability to measure the great iniquity of sinning where sin might so easily have been avoided. For as Abraham's obedience is with justice pronounced to be great, because the thing commanded, to kill his son, was very difficult, so in Paradise the disobedience was the greater, because the difficulty of that which was commanded was imperceptible. And as the obedience of the second Man was the more laudable because He became obedient even 'unto death' (Phil 2:8), so the disobedience of the first man was the more detestable because he became disobedient even unto death. For where the penalty annexed to disobedience is great, and the thing commanded by the Creator is easy, who can sufficiently estimate how great a wickedness it is, in a matter so easy, not to obey the authority of so great a power, even when that power deters with so terrible a penalty?"

Augustine, The City of God, 14.15
Romans 15:13-29
   
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
 
I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another. But on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God. For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience- by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God- so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else's foundation, but as it is written, "Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand."
 
This is the reason why I have so often been hindered from coming to you. But now, since I no longer have any room for work in these regions, and since I have longed for many years to come to you, I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while. At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem bringing aid to the saints. For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings. When therefore I have completed this and have delivered to them what has been collected, I will leave for Spain by way of you. I know that when I come to you I will come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ.   (ESV)
Prayer
Lord Jesus Christ, You have restored true fellowship with men through Your assumption of our nature, pristinely received through the incarnation of Mary. You come to me calling, "Where are you?" Send Your Spirit to me that I might reply in faith, "Here I am." Save me from myself, that I might live for You under Your cross, which turns me out of myself to You and the others You have redeemed. Amen.
 
For John Hatteberg, who is undergoing surgery on Thursday, that God would continue to give him strength
 
For all those who hear preaching that only casts them upon their own resources instead of upon Christ the only Savior of the world, that they too might be rescued through God's gospel
 
For Susan Narr, that the Lord Jesus would be with her and grant her healing
Art: Albrecht DURER,  The Adoration of the Trinity (1511)
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
©  Scott Murray 2017